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Self-criticism and major depression: An evolutionary perspective


Correspondence should be addressed to Edward Sturman, Graduate Psychology, York University, BSB, 2nd floor, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3 (e-mail:


Objectives. This study sought to incorporate the personality style of self-criticism within an evolutionary framework to help explain its relationship to major depression. It was expected that self-critics would engage in poor social comparisons and have greater feelings of internal entrapment, which are both processes related to depression by evolutionary thinkers.

Design. A cross-sectional design was employed such that participants were first interviewed and then completed several questionnaires.

Methods. The sample consisted of 146 graduate students who had experienced at least one prior episode of major depression, which was confirmed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID). Participants were subsequently administered the Center for epidemiological studies depression scale (CESD), Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ), Social comparison rating scale (SCRS), and Entrapment scale (ES).

Results. Regression analyses revealed that self-criticism significantly predicted internal entrapment and social comparison when controlling for mood and for levels of dependency. Subsequent Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) revealed that a factor of self-reported entrapment and social comparison mediated the effect of self-criticism on the number of previous episodes of depression.

Conclusion. These findings suggest that part of the reason self-critics are vulnerable to clinical episodes of depression lies in their subjective experience of entrapment and in their negative social comparisons.